Analysis: For PA, Ramat Shlomo brouhaha is a godsend

The feeling among senior officials is that the US administration is this time very serious about forcing Netanyahu to either cancel or postpone the Ramat Shlomo project indefinitely.

By
March 15, 2010 02:17
2 minute read.
Ramat Shlomo construction.

Ramat Shlomo construction 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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The crisis that erupted last week between the US and Israel over plans to build 1,600 new homes in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood has been welcomed by the Palestinian Authority as a “positive development.” PA officials and media outlets have since been highlighting – with a tone full of satisfaction – every single report or statement about the crisis between Jerusalem and Washington.

The feeling among senior PA officials is that the US administration is this time very serious about forcing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to either cancel or postpone the Ramat Shlomo project indefinitely.

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“What Israel did last week, when it announced the new housing plan during US Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Jerusalem, was the best thing that could have happened to the Palestinian Authority,” noted a PA official in Ramallah. “Now the Americans know what we mean when we say that settlement construction remains the main obstacle to peace.”

Just last week the PA leadership was facing sharp criticism from many Palestinians and Arabs for agreeing to resume the peace talks while Israel was continuing to build new homes in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

But since then the PA’s critics have been heaping praise on its leaders for announcing that they won’t return to the negotiating table until Israel cancels all “settlement activities.”

The PA is now waiting to see whether the US administration will be able to extract far-reaching concessions from the Netanyahu government.

PA officials said that this time they would insist that Washington hand them written assurances that Israel will scrap the Ramat Shlomo project and stop all construction work in West Bank settlements. Without such assurances or something similar, it’s hard to see how the Palestinian leadership would be able to resume the peace talks with Israel, they explained.

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The US-Israel crisis also seems to have helped Washington regain some if its credibility among the Palestinians. PA leaders have in recent months expressed deep disappointment over the policies of US President Barack Obama toward the Middle East conflict, with some going as far as accusing him of succumbing to pressure from Israel and its supporters in the US.

But Washington’s public outrage over the Ramat Shlomo project, as well as its increased pressure on Israel, are now being welcomed by the PA leadership as a sign that the Americans have finally grown disillusioned with Netanyahu. The Palestinians are now waiting to see if they will be able to reap the fruits of the crisis.

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